OPINION: Can Christ’s Followers Retreat From Martyrdom?

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Alan Keyes Former Assistant Secretary of State
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Post-Obergefell, Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage have the same status in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists. The culture war that began with the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives…

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI foretells a world in which the church will live in small circles of committed believers who live the faith intensely, and who will have to be somewhat cut off from mainstream society for the sake of holding on to the truth. (Rod Dreher, “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation,” Kindle edition, pp. 3,4)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matthew 28:19-20)

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

According to the article I read at catholicnews.com, at a book presentation in Rome on Sept. 11, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the papal household and Pope Emeritus Benedict’s personal secretary, observed that “the Catholic Church is looking — full of dismay — at its own 9/11.”  

The awkward comparison neglects the fact that the fateful damage inflicted on the Catholic Church came from within. Worse still, it came from strictly avowed clerics, specially charged with exemplifying the true life of the Church, while extending and preserving it from harm.

For the comparison to apply, at the very least, the joint chiefs of staff and their chairman, along with other high officers of the U.S. Armed Forces, would be cast in the role of the hijackers, if not their commander-in-chief.

It’s noteworthy that Archbishop Gänswein’s speech about the church’s predominantly homosexual sex abuse crisis came in the context of a gathering for the presentation of Mr. Ron Dreher’s book, “The Benedict Option,” which purports to “define the challenge of post-Christian America” as he sees it. Dreher discusses a strategy for meeting that challenge. It involves establishing inward-looking outposts, “somewhat cut off from mainstream society” in which “small circles of committed believers…live the faith intensely.”

Mr. Dreher may or may not realize it, but given God’s revelation in Christ of what living in good faith entails, such a way of living would be post-Christian in a derogatory sense because it involves treating Christ’s ministry to all creation as a thing of the past. It abandons the vocation of martyrdom for which Christ says God sent his living body, in the flesh, into the world — i.e., to bear witness to the truth.

It also involves neglecting Christ’s command to make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to adhere to his instructions. In the context of thriving Christian evangelism, monastic communities, in almost full retreat from the world, can be reservoirs of prayer and refreshment. They may provide access to insights made possible by the energetic stillness of the soul that is fully preoccupied with God.  

But if by holding on to the peace this stillness brings, the body of Christ forebears to drink from the cup of Christ’s travail, are they truly surrendering to his life within them. For then, when he returns will he find us with our their lamps alive with his light, doing as he instructed: boldly sowing and propagating—into the thirsty, fertile plains of darkness everywhere on earth—the truth Christ commanded us to represent to all nations.

As the Apostle Paul reminds his readers:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this in mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Though it is mostly forgotten these days, the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment aimed, first of all, to make America a place where people seeking to follow the commandment of God-in-Christ could do so without fear of persecution. This is why the free exercise of religion is first among the activities the U.S. Government is forbidden to prohibit, and why it may not abridge the freedom of speech.

Until recently, people under the jurisdiction of the United States could take for granted these primordial Constitutional safeguards against the abuse of government power. Now the de facto proponents of totalitarian despotism wage all-out, blatantly anti-Constitutional war against them.

People claiming to be followers of Christ are among them, even self-styled conservatives, like Mr. Dreher. They assume that Christians had better accept defeat and withdraw before the triumphant reality of a post-Christian world.

But in what respect does this supposedly post-Christian world today differ from the world in which Christ first appeared? The world that, in subsequent centuries, saw the teachings of Christ spread into every nation? Leave aside the fact that the U.S. Constitution still stands, not yet conquered by those who wish to destroy it.  

Leave aside the fact that Americans remain attached to their self-government, which makes no sense and cannot be sustained but on the strength of Christian virtue. Accept, if you like, the palpably satanic lie that Christians in America have no recourse but to surrender in withdrawal and retreat before the enemies of righteous liberty.

If all the vicious instruments of ancient Rome’s periodical persecutions of Christianity could now be unleashed against us, no sane believer in God and Jesus Christ would accept the notion of a post-Christian world, much less its triumph over the power and grace of God in Jesus Christ.

God is the principle of reality. Christ is His Word, that was and is to come. No world exists but by His Word (John 1:3). And no force exists in the world, greater than the power of God that dwells in all in whom His Christ abides. (1 John 4:4). The very idea of a post-Christian world is thus false to the Gospel of Christ and the power of God.

If it exists in any way, it is in the timid souls of professed Christians who, for whatever reason, shy away from martyrdom, refusing the call to be faithful to Christ’s ministry, even unto death. It has no meaning for those grafted by God into the tree of life, by way of Jesus Christ. Except by their own apostasy, they cannot be “somewhat cut off” from the mainstream informed by the body and blood of Christ.

Like the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden, the people of God in Christ stand in the midst of God’s creation. Like Christ before Pontius Pilate, we are called to bear witness to God’s truth—which the world despises and violently seeks to excise, yet cannot help but repeat and proclaim.  

Because Christ lives within us, we can answer to his name of King. Believe it or not, to do so was, and must remain, the special vocation of citizens of the United States, else we will cease to exist as a free people.

Like generations past, we must heed the call to be faithful to the saving ministry of Christ, on which true life and liberty depend. In good faith there is no way forward but the way of the Cross; and thence by way of the Spirit, to life in the hands of God.        

Dr. Alan Keyes is a political activist, prolific writer, former diplomat, and the founder of LoyaltoLiberty.com

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.